This is a current photo of me at 55 years old and a photo of me at 5 years old starting Kindergarten. Ohhh, the things I would like to tell that sweet, happy girl. I’ve had to learn most things in life the hard way. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that way. Over the past five years, I have worked very hard to reclaim the joy I felt as this young girl. And I move forward continuing to make the second half of my life, the best half of my life.
Making Sense of My MS
This is a photo of me as a pom pon girl in high school. During my high school years, I remember having tons of energy in all areas of my life. It was when I started college that I started to experience mental, emotional, and physical fatigue that simply intensified as the years passed. Fatigue is the most common Multiple Sclerosis symptom.
During my freshman year in college, I also started having significant symptoms of depression, another common MS symptom. The summer before my senior year, I also started having dizziness and vertigo, and this triggered panic attacks. I had lived with anxiety since I was a child, but this was on a whole new level.
I’d like to say that I sought help for all of my symptoms, but I did not. I shoved it all down, and forged ahead to graduate school. I set a goal for myself to get a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and to become a Licensed Psychologist. At the age of 36, I reached that goal. But I was beyond exhausted. The year was 2003.
I was eventually diagnosed with MS in August 2016 when my left arm and hand went numb. I finally had a symptom that I couldn’t ignore or push through. I went to my doctor, and she immediately sent me to the hospital to get multiple MRIs done. The results showed lesions in my brain and spine – classic Multiple Sclerosis. Multiple blood tests, to rule out other medical conditions, confirmed the diagnosis.
I am happy to report that function returned to my left arm and hand, and that I have been stable (i.e. no new MS lesions) for the past 6 years. Getting the MS diagnosis was scary as hell, but my life finally made sense to me. The diagnosis also made me determined to enjoy all areas of my life moving forward. As I indicated on my Profile, I am Reclaiming the Joy of My Youth.
To learn more about Multiple Sclerosis, go to www.nationalmssociety.org
Grief and Loss
There is nothing harder than losing a loved one. Only God can give you the strength, peace, and comfort necessary to handle the unbearable sadness and suffering you feel. I experienced this myself 11 years ago when I sat next to my dad’s hospice bed in his final days at home. In just 3 weeks time, my dad was hospitalized, diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer (as a nonsmoker), brought home with hospice care, and then passed away. It was a complete shock to me and my family. As my mom said at the time, it was a nightmare.
My dad and I were alone in his room on this Saturday, June 11th when he said to me, “I am ready to go, Lisa.” He passed away 4 days later on June 15, 2011. By that time, I had learned to cling to God. Not lean on, cling. And in the month that followed, my Faith was renewed, as I experienced incredible strength, peace, and comfort despite incredible pain. All By The Grace Of God 🙏🏻
A Prayer on My Birthday
Dear God, Thank You so much for guiding, supporting, protecting, and loving me for another year. I couldn’t do Life without You.
Thank You so much for my wonderful husband Terry, who sang to me moments after waking, and my dear 88 year old mother Ulla, who called and sang me a Swedish birthday song. My heart is so full.
In the midst of my blessings, God, I think about all those suffering in the world right now. I pray that You give strength, support, and healing to all those in need. AMEN.
💜 My Daily Bible Reading: Psalms 23:1-6 💜
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.”
“He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.”
“He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.”
“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”
“You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.”
“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” AMEN.
I wake this morning taking nothing for granted.
When the world erupts in chaos and suffering, I long for simpler times. Times when I was oblivious to human madness and cruelty. Praying for everyone tonight.
I Knew Something Was Wrong
I’ve had a love for swimming since I was 4 years old. I learned how to swim in a pool in Pompano Beach, FL during one of our annual Florida family vacations. I later enjoyed using this pool at Forest Hills Country Club in Rockford, IL where my parents have been members since 1980. I was on the FHCC swim team and basically lived there during the summers in middle school, high school, and college. (Photo courtesy of Forest Hills Country Club)
Fast forward 20+ years to July 2016, and I am using the pool at the Princeton Gym in Madison, WI. I was just starting to get back to swimming laps, and I noticed that my left arm felt heavy and numb. I told my husband that something was wrong, and that was the beginning of a very scary time for us. My MS diagnosis came on August 26, 2016.
It is common for people that receive a life-altering diagnosis to go through a grieving process. It takes time to accept your new “normal” and to heal from the medical trauma that you endured. I am very thankful that I’ve had the resources, support, and education I need to adapt to my life with Multiple Sclerosis. I realize that not everyone has that, and I don’t take it for granted.
Before MS Diagnosis
This photo was taken in 2003 when I attended the Kercher Family Reunion in Vail, Colorado. I had recently passed my Board Exams and had become a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the State of Wisconsin.
When I look at myself here, I can see the absolute fatigue (mental, emotional, and physical) that I felt behind that smile. Fatigue is the most common symptom of Multiple Sclerosis, and mine started in college, along with dizziness, vertigo, and depression. I didn’t know these were all warning signs of MS. I just felt that life was so damn hard all the time.
I crashed out in 2006 after 3 years of clinical practice. That’s no surprise considering the fact that stress is one of biggest triggers for MS symptoms. For the next few years, I tried to pivot to a new specialty in Industrial Organizational Psychology, but as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t regain my strength.
As my dad said to me in 2010, “it’s strange, Lisa … it’s like you make progress, but then suddenly sink in quicksand.” My dad passed away in 2011, and I was diagnosed in 2016. He would be very sad about my MS, as my mom is, but it does finally explain why I was always struggling.
The MS diagnosis came when I temporarily lost use of my left hand and arm in August 2016. I had multiple MRIs done that showed lesions in my brain and spine which is hallmark MS. I also had multiple blood tests done to rule out other illnesses. It is a devastating diagnosis to receive, but in some ways, it has been a relief. For the past 5+ years, I have been able to re-examine my life, and it all makes sense to me now.
Holidays are Bittersweet
Many of us struggle with loss during the holidays, especially now during the pandemic. This is notably true when it’s a parent that has passed on. This is my husband and his mother, Ann Clark, who died on Thanksgiving Day in 2017. My own father, Edward Kercher, died in 2011, a few days before Father’s Day. It doesn’t get any easier as the years pass, as much as you wish it did.
Me & My Mom
My mom, Ulla Kercher, is an amazing woman. At 88 years old, she just moved to a small home in a senior living community in my hometown, Rockford, IL. She has been a widow for 10+ years and had maintained two houses after my dad passed away, one in Rockford and one in San Diego, CA. My dad would be so proud of her and delighted that she is doing well with an abundance of support from family and friends.
I was with my dad when he had hospice care at home in 2011. One special moment I will never forget … my dad was lying in the hospital bed, with my mom and I by his side. He had been failing quickly since his terminal cancer diagnosis the week prior. Suddenly, he spoke softly, saying to my mom, “There are no words to describe how much I love you.” He passed away a few days later. They had just celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary three weeks prior.
My husband Terry Clark just had his best sales year ever. He absolutely loves his job which draws on his natural talents and abilities. At 55 years old, he has definitely hit his stride. We are forever grateful to God for giving him this work opportunity 7 years ago, which brought him to Madison, WI where I was living at the time. We moved to Green Bay, WI 4 years ago so that he could help build an office and service area here.
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